Young Husker High Jumper Keeps Flying Higher and Higher
By Steve Beideck
Sometimes PRs don’t come in the biggest meets. Jenna Rogers is just fine with that – at least for now.
The Nebraska freshman high jumper is flying higher and higher, but her best performances haven’t been coming at the biggest meets. Still, Rogers has become the first female Husker in 18 years to win both the indoor and outdoor conference high jump titles.
Rogers completed her Big Ten sweep May 14 by rallying from sixth place to win her first outdoor championship. She was the lone competitor to clear 5 feet, 11½ inches at Minnesota.
That mark was a quarter inch higher than what the Rutherford, New Jersey, native cleared to win the Big Ten indoor title Feb. 25 at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio. Winning both competitions made Rogers the first Husker female to do so since Na’Tassia Vice won the Big 12 indoor and outdoor titles in 2004.
Rogers came to Nebraska in 2020 as the owner of the national high school high jump record. After her prep career, she figured she’d stay close to home, maybe go to school at Princeton or Duke, to continue her college career. The year-round warm weather at the University of Arizona also was appealing.
But Jenna’s mother, Lorianne, said she needed to search for a middle ground.
“I was coerced by my mom to take a visit here,” Rogers said. “I was so naive I didn’t know where Nebraska was. She’s from New Jersey but went to college in Minnesota, so she wanted me to look at schools in the Midwest. It took just one day out here, and I knew this was the school for me.”
Lorianne Rogers played volleyball and basketball at Southwest Minnesota, and Rogers’ father, Dennis, played basketball at Trenton State, which became The College of New Jersey in 1996. Rogers said she eventually admitted to her mother that she was right to have her find a Midwestern school.
“She figured I’d like the Midwest,” Rogers said. “Nebraska was stronger than Minnesota in the high jump, and the school is a huge powerhouse for sports, so it became a no-brainer for me once I visited.”
Neither of Rogers’ winning jumps were a career best. The first time she cleared 6-0 as a collegian came indoors at the Feb. 5 Frank Sevigne Husker Invitational in Lincoln before clearing a then-career best 6-¾ one week later at the indoor Tyson Invitational in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Rogers continued to raise the bar for herself this spring. She started with an outdoor PR of 6-½ at the Florida Relays. Less than a week later, she had a new personal best of 6-1¼ (1.86 meters) at the April 7-8 McDonnel Invitational that still stands heading into the May 25-28 NCAA West Regional in Fayetteville.
The regional will be at the same facility as her 6-1¼ PR – John McDonnell Field at the University of Arkansas.
In the three meets since that PR, Rogers has cleared 6-0 once and 5-11½ twice.
It doesn’t bother Rogers or Nebraska high jump coach Dusty Jonas that record heights aren’t coming in championship meets. The wins and 10 points toward the team totals that go with the victories are more important for Rogers.
“I have the best high jump coach in the nation and great teammates,” Rogers said. “Coach Jonas is an Olympian, so he knows what it’s like and what it takes to get to that level. He’s able to coach me and we’re still able to be friends. It’s nice to have someone there who knows what they’re talking about.
“It’s worked out well for me and my teammates.”
Rogers was one of four Huskers who scored in the high jump for the Huskers at the Big Ten outdoor meet. Madison Yerigan and Riley Masten tied for fifth by clearing 5-9¼, and Brooklyn Miller was seventh at the same height. Mayson Conner completed the same Big Ten indoor-outdoor sweep as Rogers for the men’s team.
There was a bit more drama to Rogers’ win in Minneapolis than usual. Because she missed her first attempt at 5-8 and five other jumpers – including Yerigan and Masten – made it on their first attempts, Rogers was in sixth place when the bar was moved to 5-9¼.
That momentary place in the standings didn’t faze Rogers. The weather was ideal – 70 degrees and no wind – and Rogers was prepared for the moment.
“I had competed against the same people in the winter, so I came in pretty confident,” Rogers said. “I really believe in myself, and it ended up working out in my favor. I muscled the heck out of the jump to make sure I cleared it.
“At one point I was in sixth place, then second place. I wasn’t in the lead until the final bar I could clear. As a jump squad we’ve become really good at the little things. Down to the last steps, Dusty has it down. He has it planned out day by day and we all just trust it.”
Rogers and the rest of the Huskers who have qualified for the NCAA West Regional will head back to Fayetteville, which will determine qualifiers for the June 8-11 NCAA championship meet in Eugene, Oregon.
“The main focus is just to be clean jumping,” Rogers said. “I want to clear every bar first attempt. That would put me in a real good position.”